Descendants of McCarthy

TimeWatch Editorial
February 17, 2017

Quite frequently, we use terminology that has historical significance. Many times, those who have lived during the years when the history being referred to was occurring, smile knowingly, but for the most part, there are many who are not always aware of what these references mean. One of the terms often used is “McCarthyism.” So what is McCarthyism? According to the Free Encyclopedia, The American Heritage Dictionary (2000) defines "McCarthyism" as "the practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence" and "the use of unfair investigatory or accusatory methods in order to suppress opposition". Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged (1961) defines it as " opposition to opinions held to be subversive and by the use of tactics involving personal attacks on individuals by means of widely publicized indiscriminate allegations especially on the basis of unsubstantiated charges."

So anyone or anything who disagreed with the powers that be, were accused of being a subversive. These accusations were leveled without evidence, simply to destroy the reputation of anyone who stood in opposition. Making false accusations is by no means new. Politics today has returned to the attitude of McCarthyism. To disagree is not enough. There was a time when respect could be found, even in politics. Even though the respect might not have been necessarily sincere, publicly, respectful attitudes were maintained. Today, we live in a world of character assassination.

Again, according to the Free Encyclopedia, “The term "McCarthyism", was coined in 1950 in reference to McCarthy's practices. Joseph Raymond "Joe" McCarthy (November 14, 1908 – May 2, 1957) was an American politician who was a U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion.  He was noted for making claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. Ultimately, the controversy he generated led him to be censured by the United States Senate.” But before his censure, he created quite a disturbance in the nation. The growth of distrust was amazing. The reliability of professionals who served in government departments was questioned. As time progressed, “McCarthyism” took on a much wider application leading to an actual Executive Order that demanded extreme vetting of anyone who held an office or profession.  Robert J, Goldstein in his "Prelude to McCarthyism: The Making of a Blacklist" says the following:

“It originated with President Truman's Executive Order 9835 of March 21, 1947, which required that all federal civil service employees be screened for "loyalty." The order specified that one criterion to be used in determining that "reasonable grounds exist for belief that the person involved is disloyal" would be a finding of "membership in, affiliation with or sympathetic association" with any organization determined by the attorney general to be "totalitarian, Fascist, Communist or subversive" or advocating or approving the forceful denial of constitutional rights to other persons or seeking "to alter the form of Government of the United States by unconstitutional means." Robert J. Goldstein, Prelude to McCarthyism: The Making of a Blacklist"

The battles were fierce. There was an actual Committee in Congress called, “The House Committee on Un-American Activities.”  This was the body whose responsibility it was to investigate Un-American Activities. There is no recorded number of individuals who were the ultimate victims of McCarthy. Hundreds were placed in prison, and thousands lost their jobs.  Arthur Herman, in his book: “Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator” described the battle that took place between McCarthy and President Truman.

“McCarthy and President Truman clashed often during the years both held office. McCarthy characterized Truman and the Democratic Party as soft on, or even in league with, Communists, and spoke of the Democrats' "twenty years of treason". Truman, in turn, once referred to McCarthy as "the best asset the Kremlin has", calling McCarthy's actions an attempt to "sabotage the foreign policy of the United States" in a cold war and comparing it to shooting American soldiers in the back in a hot war.[74] It was the Truman Administration's State Department that McCarthy accused of harboring 205 (or 57 or 81) "known Communists". Truman's Secretary of Defense , George Catlett Marshall , was the target of some of McCarthy's most vitriolic rhetoric.” Herman, Arthur, “Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legacy of America's Most Hated Senator”, Free Press. p. 131

It was indeed an awful time. It will be again, if we pursue the path that seems ahead. In his description of events that took place during the beginning of the “War on Terror” which began in response to the events of September 11, 2001, David Cole, Professor, Georgetown University Law Center published an article entitled “The New McCarthyism: Repeating History in the War on Terrorism.” His description of our actions during the “War on Terror,” is very thought provoking. Listen to this.

“Today’s war on terrorism has already demonstrated our government’s remarkable ability to evolve its tactics in ways that allow it simultaneously to repeat history and to insist that it is NOT repeating history. We have not, it is true, interned people solely for their race, but we have detained approximately two thousand people, mostly through administrative rather than criminal procedures, and largely because of their ethnic identity. In addition, we have subjected Arab and Muslim noncitizens to discriminatory deportation, registration, fingerprinting, visa processing, and interviews based on little more than their country of origin. We have not, it is true, made it a crime to be a member of a terrorist group, but we have made guilt by association the linchpin of the war’s strategy, penalizing people under criminal and immigration laws for providing “material support” to politically selected “terrorist” groups, without regard to whether an individual’s support was intended to further or in fact furthered any terrorist activity.” David Cole, “The New McCarthyism: Repeating History in the War on Terrorism”, page 2

Now, it would appear that we will be taking things a step further as we “repeat history while pretending NOT to repeat history.

Cameron A. Bowen

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